Australian short-term inmates have their right to vote reinstated

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Short-term prisoners were reinstated the right to vote at federal elections by the High Court of Australia today

The High Court of Australia has overturned legislation enacted by the Howard government last year which banned all gaol inmates from voting at federal elections. The court ruled by majority that the previous legislation which banned only those serving sentences longer than three years would remain.

The case against the amendments was bought to the court by an Aboriginal inmate, Vickie Roache, who is an inmate at the Dame Phyllis Frost Women's Prison in Victoria. She was represented by Philip Lynch, director of the Victorian Human Rights Law Resource Centre. He described Ms Roache as educated, articulate and deeply committed to the rights of prisoners and indigenous Australians.

"Vickie has stood up not just for the human rights of prisoners and Aboriginal Australians, but the interests of the entire community. She has done so with courage, integrity and commitment," he said.

Lawyers argued that the amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act were in violation of the Constitution which states that the parliament is to be "directly chosen by the people".

Ms Roache's challenge to previous laws which banned inmates serving terms longer than three years was unsuccessful, with the court upholding them. The court further ordered Ms Roache to pay half the court's costs.

There is yet to be an comment by the federal government or a release detailing the reasons behind the courts decision.